US Senators introduce bill to boost mass timber

Will create good-paying jobs through federal building construction and renovation

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley and Idaho’s U.S. Senator James Risch today announced the introduction of the bipartisan Mass Timber Federal Buildings Act to promote the utilization of mass timber in federal building projects and military construction. The mass timber industry has become important to Oregon, Idaho, and the entire Pacific Northwest’s economy and environment. The bill builds upon the opportunity presented by mass timber products to create jobs in rural and urban communities, reduce wildfire risk, increase forest resiliency, and shrink the carbon footprint of federal buildings.

“Mass timber from right here in Oregon is already a key piece of the puzzle to solving our nation’s affordable housing crisis and tackling climate chaos,” said Merkley. “Oregon is already leading the way on mass timber and is set to get an additional boost thanks to Oregon State University’s recent Mass Timber Tech Hub designation made possible by the CHIPS and Science Act—but we can do more. My Mass Timber Federal Buildings Act will ensure we’re building federal projects using mass timber products, helping to tackle our nation’s biggest challenges while creating good-paying jobs right here in Oregon and across the United States.”

“Idaho’s forest products industry supports rural economies, reduces wildfire risk, and produces high-quality building materials,” said Risch. “With the Mass Timber Federal Buildings Act, Idaho timber would be a prioritized construction material in federal buildings. This will open opportunities for Idaho’s timber industry and ensure our government offices are built with the best of the best.”

The Mass Timber Federal Buildings Act would create an incentive for the use of mass timber building materials by providing a preference in federal building contracts for mass timber products. This will give mass timber companies the ability to compete for federal construction, renovation, or acquisition of public buildings and for military construction.

The bill creates a two-tier contracting preference for mass timber. The first tier preference applies to mass timber that is made within the U.S. and responsibly sourced from state, federal, private, and Tribal forestlands. The second tier, which is optional, applies to mass timber products that are sourced from restoration practices, fire mitigation projects, and/or underserved forest owners. Additionally, this bill contains a reporting requirement for a whole building lifecycle assessment. The results of this assessment will help provide additional evidence of the carbon sequestration benefits of mass timber buildings.

The Mass Timber Federal Buildings Act is endorsed by the American Wood Council, Sustainable Northwest, American Forest Resource Council, Forest Landowners Association, National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO), Southeastern Lumber Manufacturers Association**,** Weyerhaeuser, Freres Engineered Wood, and Oregon Mass Timber Coalition, which includes the Port of Portland, Oregon Department of Forestry, Business Oregon, University of Oregon, Oregon State University, TallWood Design Institute, and Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development.

“It’s abundantly clear that mass timber and wood construction are right-now climate solutions that also support and grow our rural communities. The Mass Timber Federal Buildings Act marks a significant step toward ensuring that the federal government – our nation’s single biggest developer – utilizes these products to reduce the significant carbon emissions from the built environment in this country. The United States is global leader when it comes to managing our forests and the ecosystems, wildlife, and communities that depend on them. This language will ensure that these emerging markets are supported by American manufacturing and sustainably sourced American wood products,” said Jackson Morrill, President and CEO, American Wood Council.

“Sustainable Northwest commends Senator Merkley for introduction of the Mass Timber Federal Buildings Act. This practical legislation will spur use of innovative wood products in public buildings, support American manufacturing, and build critical markets for sound restoration of our nation’s forests,” said Dylan Kruse, Vice President, Sustainable Northwest.

“The Mass Timber Federal Buildings Act recognizes the benefits of active forest management, and the climate benefits of using wood products that are grown, harvested and manufactured right here in America. We applaud Senator Merkley for understanding the Pacific Northwest’s potential to produce green, renewable and innovative building materials that guide the federal government in decarbonizing its buildings and offices. In passing this bill, we can take an important step toward honoring our nation’s agreement at the recent UN Climate Change Conference (COP28), to substantially increase the use of a wide variety of wood products in construction as a vital decarbonization strategy,” said Travis Joseph, President, American Forest Resource Council.

“The United States is the gold standard for forest management practices, and private landowners lead the way in this effort to ensure economic and environmental benefits from this natural resource. While the increasing number of disasters and limited tools to recover threaten our working forests, expanding market access through policies like the Mass Timber Federal Buildings Act of 2024 will provide private forest landowners opportunities to continue their sustainable operations by replacing carbon intensive building materials with our domestic supply of timber,” said Scott Jones, CEO, Forest Landowners Association.

“We commend Senator Merkley for introducing the Mass Timber Federal Buildings Act. Wood is an abundant, renewable, and climate smart building material. When we build with American-grown wood, we bolster our nation’s private working forests and the rural communities that depend on them. As global leaders in modern, sustainable forest management, U.S. forest owners are already growing the wood needed to expand mass timber construction. Because of the strong relationship between forest products markets and sustainable forest management, today we have 60% more wood in our forests than we had in the 1950s. This positions mass timber construction to deliver a win for the climate, for water quality, for species conservation, and for the economies of rural communities and our nation. We look forward to working with Senator Merkley and his colleagues in the Senate and House of Representatives to advance this important legislation,” said Dave Tenny, President and CEO, NAFO.

“Wood products are the most sustainable, versatile and cost-effective building material we have. Building more with wood decreases the country’s dependence on materials that have a much higher environmental impact and rely on large amounts of fossil fuels in their production. Additionally, wood products manufacturing facilities are critical drivers of rural economies, and increased wood products demand and usage will bolster and continue to provide jobs in these communities. Mass timber has emerged as a transformative way to use wood in larger and taller buildings and grow the market for wood construction and wood buildings. The Mass Timber Federal Buildings Act recognizes the importance of sustainably managed wood as a building material in the construction of federal buildings, and we commend Senator Merkley and Senator Risch for introducing this important piece of legislation,” said Kristen Sawin, Vice President of Corporate Affairs, Weyerhaeuser.

“Freres Engineered Wood strongly supports the Mass Timber Federal Buildings Act. Using innovative mass timber products for the construction of Federal buildings achieves many policy goals, such as carbon sequestration, forest restoration, and supporting rural communities while also constructing innovative new buildings from US sourced wood. Mass Timber have been proven to withstand large scale seismic events while also providing the potential to reduce building costs,” said Tyler Freres, Vice President, Freres Engineered Wood.

“The Oregon Mass Timber Coalition is committed to advancing equitable economic development through the expansion of our state’s mass timber industry and housing manufacturing ecosystem. We are pleased to see proposed legislation encouraging the use of mass timber sourced from U.S. forests for public building projects nationwide — which will help reduce wildfire risk, lower the carbon footprint of our public buildings, and lead to new jobs in both urban and rural communities across the country,” said Marcus Kauffman, Coalition Communications Officer, Oregon Mass Timber Coalition.

To read the full bill text, click here.